This case arises out of plaintiff’s request to move the parties’ children from Michigan to Louisiana. The parties were married, and they had three children together during the marriage. The judgment of divorce stated that both parties shared joint legal and joint physical custody of the children. The judgment further provided that the father would have parenting time three weekends a month. In the summer, father would have parenting time 14 days a month.
Plaintiff, acting in propria persona, filed a motion to change the children’s domicile. She explained that she wished to move to Louisiana with her husband and the three children because she was given the opportunity for good employment and adequate housing for the entire family. Plaintiff asserted that the move would be good for education because Louisiana had great school districts. Defendant opposed the motion.
After holding a hearing in which both plaintiff and defendant testified, the trial court granted plaintiff’s motion.
A motion for a change of domicile essentially requires a four-step approach.
- First, a trial court must determine whether the moving party has established by a preponderance of the evidence that the factors enumerated in MCL 722.31(4), support a motion for a change of domicile.
- Second, if the factors support a change in domicile, then the trial court must then determine whether an established custodial environment exists.
- Third, if an established custodial environment exists, the trial court must then determine whether the change of domicile would modify or alter that established custodial environment.
- Finally, if, and only if, the trial court finds that a change of domicile would modify or alter the child’s established custodial environment must the trial court determine whether the change in domicile would be in the child’s best interests by considering whether the best-interest factors in MCL 722.23 have been established by clear and convincing evidence.
In this case, the trial court granted plaintiff’s motion for a change of domicile and memorialized this decision in its order regarding change of domicile, dated November 28, 2018. The court found the requested change of domicile will not change the children’s established custodial environment. Additionally, at the January 8, 2019 hearing, the trial court discusses the established custodial environment, and father’s counsel acknowledges that the established custodial environment is with the mother.
The trial court found that the current parenting-time agreement was loosely complied with, but the trial court did not believe that plaintiff had a secret motive to keep the children from defendant. This finding is also supported by plaintiff’s testimony because she offered defendant parenting time for the entire summer and on alternate holidays. She also offered to meet defendant halfway for parenting-time exchanges. Plaintiff stated that she believed that this arrangement would be an improvement to the current practice because defendant often worked on the weekends in which he had the children.
If you are going through a divorce or are separating from the mother or father of your children, it is important to protect your custodial rights.
If the divorce or separation process does not turn out like you thought it would, you may not have the custody, visitation or child support you deserve.